Essential Care Partners Program

An Essential Care Partner (ECP) is a support person whose presence is considered essential to the safety and well-being of a patient while they are in the hospital. The OSMH Essential Care Partner program was             co-designed by our Patient and Family Advisory Council.

Essential Care Partner

An Essential Care Partner (ECP) is a support person whose presence is considered essential to the safety and well-being of a patient while they are in the hospital. An ECP is different from a social visitor or a paid support worker. Most often, they are family or close friends of the patient who typically know the patient’s health history, lifestyle and personal values.

Having a familiar person available to patients to provide different types of support can help improve their health outcomes. The ECP designation provides a consistent and equitable way for patients to have access to this support as safely as possible despite visitor restrictions and is consistent with Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital’s mission to serve our community with compassion and excellence.

Some of the ways ECPs participate in patient care include:

  • Supporting patient decision making.
  • Providing emotional and cognitive support.
  • Being a part of planning the patient’s care while they are in the hospital and once they are discharged.
  • Helping patients use technology to connect with loved ones.
  • Assisting patients in eating, moving around, bathing and communicating as needed.
  • Participating in patient and family education.
  • Letting the care team know when they see a change in the patient.

The difference between Visitors and Essential Care Partners

A visitor is someone who has an existing relationship with a patient but has not been identified as the patient’s Essential Care Partner. The intent of their visit is most often social in nature and not part of the patient’s healthcare. They have not provided an ongoing commitment of their time to support the patient during their stay, and their time at the hospital is typically brief.

An Essential Care Partner is a pre-approved person (often a loved one or someone familiar to the patient) who has been deemed essential to the well-being of the patient and becomes part of the care team while the patient is in hospital.


It’s important to recognize that not all patients will be eligible or will benefit from the presence of an ECP.   The OSMH clinical team will identify if a patient should designate an ECP given potential improvements to their emotional, cognitive or physical state.  If you wish to become an ECP for a patient, please make a request to the unit where the patient resides.

Some examples where the presence of an ECP would be beneficial are:

  • Life altering events (i.e. absence of certain visitor could result in long term health effects, emotional or psychological)
  • Vulnerable patients who may be unable to communicate effectively or suffering from cognitive impairment
  • Patients that require a caregiver to prevent physical hardship or support for transitions in care

Areas eligible for an Essential Care Partner:

  • Admission into inpatient bed
  • Preplanned surgeries
  • Preplanned outpatient visits

Designating an ECP

Patients and/or loved ones wishing to designate or be an Essential Care Partner are encouraged to speak to the patient’s care team or the unit where the patient resides.

The unit care team will assess the request to determine if the patient will benefit from having an ECP.

Anyone who wishes to become an ECP will be required to complete Infection Prevention & Control (IPAC) training and abide by our safety protocols at all times as a member of the care team.  We are still allowing only one person at the bedside at any given time, ECPs are not granted an exemption to this rule.


As ECP’s function as part of the care team, ECPs will have expanded access to the hospital, including outside visiting hours, to provide care.  However,  COVID-19 Infection prevention protocols remain in place.

ECPs must follow all OSMH Infection Prevention and Control visiting protocols:

  • Self -screen at each visit to ensure that they have no signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or any other communicable illness.
  • Adhere to all necessary infection control practices – frequent hand washing, wearing a hospital provided surgical mask at all times, maintenance of physical distancing.
  • Only one person, ECP or visitor, may be at the bedside at a time.
  • ECP’s are not permitted to eat or drink in the patient’s room.
  • ECP’s are permitted to access the cafeteria, but are required to provide the requisite information on the contact sheet provided adjacent to the cash register.

ECPs are not exempt from visiting rules around outbreaks at the hospital. Exceptions are made for compassionate reasons in certain circumstances.


Essential Care Partners FAQ

The Ontario Caregiver Organization